INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — U.S. border spangents are looking into the grounding of a possible migrant vessel after a boat crafted from plastic foam, lumber and outfitted with an engine appeared beached north of a Vero Beach park.
Beachgoers reported the find north of Jaycee Beach Park in the 4400 block of Ocean Drive, police said, Wednesday morning.
There were no accounts of people seen with or near the vessel in first reports to the Vero Beach Police Department, officials said.
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“We’re aware of it,” said Master Police Officer Darrell Rivers. “There’s nothing that led us to believe any migrants came on shore.”
The U.S. Cospanst Guspanrd confirmed the landing of the vessel in Vero Beach, but a spokesperson said because it was found on land empty it would be a border patrol matter.
“Agents will respond to the scene to examine the vessel,” Customs and Border Protection spokesperson Adam Hoffner said by email.
A final determination and the steps federal customs agency would take next, if any, Hoffner said, would come from findings of the Riviera Beach Customs and Border Protection station agents who are set to examine the site.
“From the photos, it looks like this may have been interdicted at sea and later washed-up,” said Hoffner.
Ultimately the abandoned boat will be removed by city Public Works Department workers and hauled to the dump, Rivers said.
Police are not investigating the matter.
“Who knows the fate of the occupants,” said Rivers. “It could’ve blew over in the storm.”
Typically, the U.S. Coast Guard leaves markings on boats or makeshift vessels to identify if it had been the subject of an at-sea stop, or a migrant interdiction, its occupants removed.
“We usually spray paint OK to signify they’ve been interdicted,” said Petty Officer Ryan Estrada, a spokesperson with the U.S. Coast Guard in Miami.
Residents of a nearby condominium complex, Don Dykes and Lee Dykes said in 12 years as seasonal Vero Beach residents this was a first-of-its-kind site along their beach walking route.
Lee Dykes said she saw the boat Wednesday before it was pulled further up on shore from the surf, and was worried because, “a bunch of kids (were) jumping on it.”
“That’s a very old engine,” said Lee Dykes. “That’s something quite unusual.”
A small-craft weather advisory was in effect for waters along the Treasure Coast until 10 a.m. Wednesday, said meteorologist Scott Kelly with the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Melbourne.
A water monitoring buoy about 6 miles off Fort Pierce reported 5-to-6 feet waves, he said.
In mid-July another rustic, makeshift vessel was found empty grounded in the surf of a beach just south of South Beach Park.
In late September, what was called a maritime smuggling event was reported on the border of St. Lucie and Martin counties.
At least 11 people were found to be smuggled on a boat from the Bahamas, including nine people from Haiti, one from the Dominican Republican and a person from Georgia.
On Wednesday the Coast Guard stopped four migration attempts from Cuba and repatriated 55 people.
That brings to 66 the number of Cuban people alone the U.S. Coast Guard has stopped trying to cross the Florida Straits since Oct. 1, according to coast guard reports. Altogether, the coast guard reports stopping at sea 6,182 Cubans, so far in its current fiscal year.
Because the craft found in Vero Beach was empty, Estrada said they were unable to determine its country of origin, or that of anyone it possibly carried.